Government gives illustrated publishers July deadline

Government gives illustrated publishers July deadline

The government has given publishers just three months to comply with new legislation which industry figures have warned threatens to decimate illustrated publishing, refusing requests for a longer transition period.

The Publishers Association has said it is "very concerned" by the decision.

The legal changes are extending the length of protection of 2D representations of "design objects" from 25 to 70 years to bring design law into step with copyright law. This means that publishers of books containing mere images of such objects - for example, a photo of a chair - must either pay (in many cases in addition to fees for copyright) to licence design rights or otherwise get permission from the design rights holder; otherwise, the inclusion of the photo is no longer legal for publication. The design object must be over 70 years old to be exempt. 

The government has refused to differentiate between the treatment of 2D images in publications from those of 2D design objects themselves: a decision that will dismay illustrated publishers. They now face the unpalatable prospect of shelving publications in progress and pulping stock in order to be compliant with the legislation by 28th July, when the amendment will come into force.

The repercussions of this legislation are particlarly far reaching for arts and illustrated publishers whose books may contain hundreds of such images in any given tome. This, according to publishers in the space, could make them too expensive to produce at all.

The government's decision is the response to a consultation about how long publishers have to comply with changes to the law, following feedback from publishers it has been considering since the end of last year. 

Expert in IP law Lionel Bently, who is Herchel Smith professor of intellectual property law at the University of Cambridge, called the Government's dismissive attitude to the objections raised in consultation both "shocking" and "high-handed", and suggested judicial review could be the next port of call for those affected. 

He said: "This is very disappointing. The majority of responses objected to the Government's proposed approach, but the objections have been ignored, and the Government will push ahead with implementation. Given that there was no consultation back in 2012 when the Government first indicated its intention to repeal section 52, but it promised a proper consultation on transitional matters, it is shocking that the objections that were made have been treated in such a high-handed manner. The Government Response offers no explanation as to how this is consistent with fundamental principles of EU law on the protection of acquired rights and legitimate expectations, expectations encouraged by the Government's original (later revoked) statutory instrument which would have delayed implementation of the change until 2020."

"I would not be surprised if affected interests now themselves seek judicial review," he added.

A spokesperson for the Publishers Association said: “We are very concerned about the impact this decision will have on our members. It is incredibly disappointing that the government has not accepted our recommendation that the use of 2D images in publications should benefit from a longer transition period. We will be discussing with them potential future courses of action.”